Government Public Works

West Hartford Street Signs Undergo Update in Lettering Style

An example of the new lettering style to be applied to all street signs across West Hartford in the coming years. Photo Credit: Gillian Hixson

All West Hartford street signage will be changed from all uppercase lettering to a mix between uppercase and lowercase lettering.

By Gillian Hixson

Many observant residents have recently begun to notice an inconsistency in the street signs across West Hartford – most have uppercase lettering but some now have bolder type with a mix between uppercase and lowercase.

At the intersection of Brace Road and Grennan Road, this inconsistency is quite clear.

On the top of the stop sign on one corner lies the old, completely uppercase street signs, reading ‘”BRACE RD” and “GRENNAN RD.” On the stop sign right across the street, the street signs read “Brace Rd” and “Grennan Rd.”

On the left is the old lettering style. On the right is the new, updated lettering style to be applied to all West Hartford street signs in the future. Photo Credit: Gillian Hixson.

This difference may seem minute – but the update in street signage will be an ongoing project for the town.

John Phillips, Director of Public Works, explained, “Signs are regulated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and a code book called ‘The Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways’ (MUTCD). This manual has set new guidelines to use upper and lowercase lettering with street names signs.”

According to the 2003 version of the MUTCD, the standard for street sign lettering was “all sign lettering shall be in capital letters” with an option that street name signs “may be composed of a combination of lower-case letters with initial upper-case letters.”

Now, however, this option has become standard. The updated version of the MUTCD states, “the sign lettering for names of places, streets, and highways shall be composed of a combination of lower-case letters with initial upper-case letters.”

This new normal is referred to as “mixed-case legends.”

When asked when all the signs in West Hartford will be updated, Phillips laughed and said “years.” He explained the project is “an unfunded mandate,” meaning the change from all uppercase letters to the “mixed-case legends” is “contingent on budgetary restraints.”

The town will focus on updating the signs of main roads and intersections, many of which have already been completed, Phillips said. Neighborhood street signs will be changed when the corresponding streets are being re-serviced, he added.

“It all depends on funding availability,” Phillips said. Not only is the street signage project itself unfunded, but the “reconstruction and re-pavement” of the smaller streets that would spur the updating of the corresponding street signs also depends on th budget.

“We have over 10,000 signs all over town,” Phillips explained, so this update promises to be ongoing for quite some time.

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Gillian Hixson


    • Better legibility and faster visual recognition by drivers, which is important as the number elderly drivers skyrockets to unprecedented levels due to the Baby Boomers

  • The new standard was passed in 2009 but no mandate to change existing signage. We have found our destinations and had our mail delivered for 8 successful years with the existing signs.

    DPW is the same department who wants to sell us our garbage bags because they “don’t have the money” to collect our garbage. Instead they blow through what they do have on this nonsense.

    Smaller letters are harder to read when you are driving. The town should have the common sense to wait out this law so when it gets switched back we have less signs to replace.

    Does anyone else remember the front license plate law to make driving “better?” It wasn’t too long before we were all buying our license plates back. This is exactly why people get tired of government and look for change.

  • In fact, the manual advises AGAINST mixing of the signs:

    A damaged, missing, or otherwise non‑serviceable device that is non‑compliant may be replaced in kind if
    engineering judgment indicates that:
    A. One compliant device in the midst of a series of adjacent non‑compliant devices would be confusing to
    road users; and/or
    B. The schedule for replacement of the whole series of non‑compliant devices will result in achieving timely
    compliance with the MUTCD.

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